Vulkan – Technatura [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

People hate social media because of all the idiots, lunatics, and imbeciles. I must have the best-curated friend lists on the planet; aside from blocking a few conspiracy theorists, flat-earthers, and all-around rednecks this year, my feeds are pristine. In fact, I’ve gotten a ton of great recommendations from my Twitter pals, and the best of the bunch was Technatura, the third album from the Swedish heavy prog band Vulkan. I’ve never heard of them just like they’ve apparently never heard of PR, because I didn’t know about this album until months after its release. That’s a shame, because this is one of the strongest progressive rock albums of the year.

Who does Vulkan sound like? I don’t know, a bunch of bands and yet nobody at all. There are hints of heavier Porcupine Tree, a touch of post-Watershed Opeth, a scattering of percussive world music, and more. Vocalist Jimmy Lindblad is the main draw here (aside from the wonderfully written songs themselves). His voice is simply an all-around pleasure to listen to, whether it’s laid-back crooning or soulful belting, or even his brief blackened burst in “The Royal Fallacy.” His choice of style and phrasing is perfectly suited to each moment in every song, lending Technatura a vitality that would be sorely missing in the hands of a lesser talent. Performances from the entire band are perfectly balanced. This album may be over an hour long, but there is no unnecessary wanking nor any real filler. The two brief interludes (oddly enough, one of which is the title track) serve as intros to subsequent songs, and so make sense.

Opener “This Visual Hex” is the second-longest song, a nine-minute epic that has everything we’ve come to expect from prog – it instantly pulls you in musically and sports hypnotic verses and soaring choruses. And check out the breakdown at 6:35, a massive riff breaking up an otherwise exquisite heavy prog rock epic. “Bewildering Conception of Truth” features heavy grooves between slinky verses and a sweet string movement towards the end. It’s catchy as hell, and wouldn’t even be considered as one of the “tracks to check out.” That’s how good this album is. In an interesting twist, the middle third of Technatura is sung in Swedish, which is an effective changeup and suits the platter’s feel. Throughout the album, Vulkan maintain the momentum started with “This Visual Hex,” with the songs ebbing and flowing in perfect sequence, keeping us glued to the speakers.

I like this Vulkan album enough that I went out and bought the frigging t-shirt. As someone who literally never does that, that should be all you need to know to ascertain the quality of Technatura. In the world of heavier progressive rock (or lighter progressive metal, take your pick), this album is unmatched in 2020. Epic-length, wonderfully arranged songs are tempered with shorter numbers with more immediate gratification, just a couple of interludes, and (thankfully) no prelude or intro. These Swedes are firmly on my radar now, and future releases will not slip by unnoticed. They shouldn’t slip by you, either.

Tracks to Check Out: “This Visual Hex,” “Rekviem,” “The Royal Fallacy.”

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